This is an article from a locally published pamphlet titled ‘Memoirs of a Lowford boy’.
The author was Mr Jim Greening who I met in his later years in the village; he had worked in the aircraft industry in Hamble.
A. V. Roe and his four-wheeled motorbike c.1927-8
One sunny summer morning standing outside Mr. Hughes general provision shop in Lowford, now the Winged Fellowship, with my pals I saw a fellow riding a motorbike in the prone position, i.e.face down, his left leg along the top of the rear mudguards.
As he drew into the grass verge, two wheels lowered to the road making the bike into a four wheeled vehicle.
The rider made a perfect stop, then swung out of the saddle, smiled and said “hello” to us, then walked into the shop. To my astonishment, I recognised the rider as A. V. Roe, the aviation pioneer and designer who had a large factory in Hamble and lived in “High Firs” on the corner of Windmill Lane and the now A27. This mansion is now the Windhover restaurant.
To resume, a few minutes later A. V. Roe returned to his bike, swung into a prone position left leg parallel to the road, face down, arms akimbo, started the engine and as he moved off, the smaller wheels on the left hand side retracted to an area where the rider’s left thigh should have been, very efficiently controlled and balance maintained.
WIth hindsight, we were looking at the prototype of the retractable undercarriage fitted to fighter aircraft 10 years later. How I wished I had a camera in those days . A photograph would have been priceless. I have no knowledge of on in existence.
In the late 1930s as a young man, I learnt that Mr Dowty the international manufacturer of retractable undercarriages was A V Roe’s chief design draughstsman at the Hamble factory.
The Hamble factory closed down around 1930 and Mr Dowty started his own, making aircraft undercarriages very successfully.
Hope you find this interesting!